I spent a delightful hour last Saturday with my friend and her young grandson, hearing and seeing Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf as performed by the Okanagan Symphony and Bumbershoot.
The Kelowna Community Theatre was filled with expectant children and adults, waiting for this timeless classic. I confess I was also waiting (not so patiently) for the show; I remember hearing it on the radio when I was very young, but was not sure how Bumbershoot fit in. It was another wonderful collaboration, which symphony conductor Rosemary Thomson does well. The blending of the music with the acting was excellent.
A simple set centre stage and on the side set the scene. As the theme began, we saw first a puppet on a stick behind the short wall, followed by Peter himself (Quinn Bates) entering through the gate. He interacted with other players as the song progressed; Bird (Niki Wilkinson), Duck (Antony Knight), Cat (Rachel Neufeld), Hunter (Stephen Jeffries), Grandfather (Randy Benson), and of course, Wolf (Brad Hull). They all captured our imagination as they romped and sang their way through the story. The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy every moment. My young companion was riveted with attention.
The Prokofiev music was supplemented with what I assume was original music, which fit in well. In particular I liked some sultry singing from Cat, the counter-tenor voice from Peter and a lively jazzy piece near the end. The ensemble was outstanding.
For me, there were a couple of unfortunate occurrences. The first was the lengthy chatter between Thomson and Bumbershoot artistic director Tracy Ross, as they tried to sell the coming events. I don't even remember what they have planned, making the entire talk a waste of time. It would have been far better to have a printed handout to be retained and read. That way we could have enjoyed the show on time. I may be in a minority, but when I attend a musical evening,
I want to hear the music, not a lot of talk.
The second fault was the balance between the orchestra and the singers. The OSO is a well-trained, professional group, yet their music is frequently too loud for the singers and this was the case at times on Saturday. Somehow, there must be a way of recognizing the problem and then fixing it.
In spite of all that, the afternoon was a huge success, one which I hope will be repeated.
- Marvin Dickau is a Kelowna resident and an organist, pianist and conductor with an A.Mus. from the University of Alberta.